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From Cold Calling to Relationship Building through the Contact Center

21st Mar 2016
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How often does it happen that you are in the office, maybe exchanging a joke with colleagues, or trying to get your head round a report, and you’re interrupted by a contact centre agent calling to sell you a claims service, or offer you an insurance deal you aren't remotely interested in? And how many tactics have you used to dodge those calls? The list is endless: the need to go into a meeting, telling them they've reached an out-of-date number, pretending you’re someone else who’s just answered a colleague’s phone… OK, maybe the last one is just me.

Dislike for this type of intrusive cold-calling is pretty universal though. Here in the UK, BT is introducing its “Choose to Refuse” service, allowing users to block annoying and unwanted incoming calls from specific numbers. Good news for the consumer, perhaps, but not such good news for the business that has put a lot of effort into designing and tailoring an attractive offering, one that their customers may well be interested in hearing about – but only if they are approached in a relevant, appropriate and timely manner.

Ultimately, getting the approach wrong is what is really causing annoyance. It’s understandable that companies who want to market new products and services want to leverage their existing database of existing and potential clients – that’s why they invested in building those resources in the first place. Businesses today are sitting on a gold-mine of customer data, collected from the different touch points they use to interact with them, whether that is e-mail, voice, chat, web or whatever. This data could be used to create highly targeted, personal customer experiences and to interact with customers in many new ways.

In reality, what too many businesses are doing with this data today is not even remotely tailored. For the most part they’re approaching, en-masse, all the contacts they have assembled with exactly the same offers – offers that may or may not be relevant to them. And it’s that lack of relevance which is making customers and potential customers avoid their calls and delete their emails.

The end result can be a lot worse than a wasted resource; this type of approach can do severe damage to a company’s reputation, with customers literally going out of their way to avoid contact with them and slating them on social media channels. 

So how can you know how your customers will react to your communications and if they’ll be relevant?

The answer lies in contextual analytics. Combining that gold-mine of customer data with the analytics tools that are available today for contact centres, means organisations can offer personal and relevant customer communications, avoiding any mass-market approach.

But  –  and this is a very big but –  contextual analytics will only deliver impact if  the  organisation has integrated its contact center with other communication and marketing channels, and therefore is able to deliver a true omni-channel experience.

We already know that customers hop from channel to channel through the buying cycle. In fact research shows that consumers use an average of five channels before they actually make a purchase. This means that a joined-up omni-channel approach should be a pre-requisite for all customer experience strategies. From there, an enterprise can really crunch its data, allowing it to intelligently identify the buying habits of customers and their preferences: how they like to be contacted and when, how they engaged previously and what is more likely to trigger their interest. By efficiently managing contact center resources and enabling agents to have the “right” conversation with the “right” customers, organizations can boost sales, enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. What’s more, it enables them to truly understand their customers’ behaviour and what individual customers are likely to do and want next. Ultimately, it can allow organisations to improve their bottom line more rapidly.

Businesses that adopt this approach will also move from a traditional, siloed contact center environment into the world of the “relationship center” – a term that covers a number of meanings: mutual understanding of what is important, appreciation and respect of likes and dislikes, delivering value to both parties, and, eventually, building long-term relationships that are extremely hard to break. With the Internet of Things heralding so many more ways for customers to interact with brands, this move is becoming ever-more pressing. Soon the traditional, separate, contact centre, marketing and sales departments will become inhibitors, rather than enablers of the enhanced customer relationship.

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